Friday, January 20, 2012

Thinking in Scale

To us, the earth is huge, the sun is massive, the universe is unfathomable. Atoms are minuscule, cells are tiny, insects are small. We have a sense of scale, a grasp on size, an understanding of how big everything is compared to us. We have some expectation that the size which something is will be the size of another similar thing.

But... our perspective is small. We are tiny compared to the Earth, the earth is small compared to the solar system, the solar system is minuscule compared to the galaxy. Without the technology we've built, how would we even know that there was a universe out there? From our small perspective, the stars are burning lights in the sky, nothing more.

I've mentioned before that time moves in cycles, but cycles are not exclusive to time. The shape and scale of things is cyclic as well, space itself is cyclic. It is as if everything is caught in a spiral fractal. We know that nature functions in fractals, from the way waves move to the shore to the way leaves grow on a tree, even down to how ants pattern their tunnels underground. Everything that seems random to us is in fact fractal based, meaning that there is a mathematical logic to it, even if it is one that we do not readily understand. It is the very order of the universe, the order of time, a logic and intelligence that governs everything.

Fractals are (from our perspective) infinite. You can eternally zoom in or out of a fractal and you will continuously find one image after another that resembles all of those that came before it and all of those that will follow.

If the nature of Earth is governed by fractals, then it is logical to assume that all of the universe is as well. That means that for every teeny tiny thing you can find here on earth, there is a massive scale version of it out there in the universe, somewhere. Take for example the atom - it has a nucleus and is orbited by electrons, just like our solar system has a sun that is orbited by planets. Our solar system is near other solar systems, and on a large scale is part of a galaxy. That galaxy then is like a cell, made up of molecules made up of atoms. It even looks like a cell just as our solar system looks like an atom. Begin to net those galaxies together, zooming out in perspective and they start to look like tissue - you know, muscle, bones, etc? What we know of the universe has been extrapolated into an image of it, and from the viewing distance it looks very much like brain tissue. The similarity is uncanny, even a bit startling.

Imagine that every atom upon the earth is in fact a tiny solar system. The different types of atoms relate to different stages or types of stars. Each has a different number of planets circling them. Think of just how many atoms there are in your body alone, then the entire Earth... then the entire solar system. The number is so high we don't really have a number for it. It may be above the google-plex, beyond our capacity for imagination. Imagine that the number of atoms within your thumb alone make up an entire universe.

Turn the lens and look the other direction... our entire universe is in a drop of dew on the grass of some other existence.

This is not only plausible but quite likely, given that nature follows fractals and as far as we know fractals are infinitely large and infinitely small, repeating the same shapes and archetypes all along the way. I think the smaller the particles that science discovers, they will continually find there is always something smaller than that particle. I think the larger our view of the universe gets, the more we'll see is out there, bigger and grander than our own universe, infinitely continuing on. Like a mobius strip, in every direction we travel there will never be an end, there will always be farther to go.

Einstein theorized that the closer you are to a mass of gravity, the slower you perceive time to move and the farther you are from that mass of gravity, the faster you'll perceive time to pass. Let's assume that this idea also applies to scale. The higher you go on the scale of size, the slower time is perceived and the lower you go on the scale of size, the faster time is perceived.

Therefore, the massive atom of our solar system appears to remain in roughly the same place and remain relatively ageless compared to ourselves. Yet the minuscule solar system atoms within our cells, which constantly reproduce and die off, burn away so quickly we can't even imagine any life occur ed in that time-space at all. Yet within those atoms could be planets with life on them that stretches on for great ages in their perspective, though it could be mere minutes or seconds in our own. A supernova of their sun could have just made your hand itch a little bit.

Years ago I downloaded a simple program called "Life". It was individual pixels on a screen that reproduced or died out according to a very simple formula. The cycle was quite beautiful to watch, and I had the impression that it was accurate to how our own civilization would appear from a distance.

When you consider things in this infinite fractal of time and scale, letting it thoroughly saturate your mind, you can understand that all of your life occurs in a fraction of a second and nothing that happens here on Earth is all that significant in and of itself. It is the whole, the fractal, that matters. The individuals all become a part of that whole, and every one of us is made up of a billion or so other tiny wholes, which are each made up of a billion other tiny individuals, and it eternally stretches on.

Our every movement, our every action, our very lives are just a blip on a screen, exploding into other fragments that then go on to do the same, eternally, cycling through the dance of eternity which never begins and never ends, like dust caught in a whirlwind forever spinning and twisting into new patterns.

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